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Marie Antoinette

(1755-1793) Queen of France, as the wife of Louis XVI, from 1774 until her death at the guillotine. She was the daughter of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. Marie Antoinette is credited with the introduction of croissants to France.

She is also credited with the lines "let them eat cake" when being told the starving peasants had no bread to eat; but this was in fact printed in "Confessions" the sixth book written by the social philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, and published posthumously in 1782. It is very doubtful she ever said the words - and if she did the word "croissant" would have replaced "cake".

However, there were at least seven terrible famines in France as the 18th century came to an end. An Italian diplomat visiting Versaille called France a country where 90% of the population was dying of hunger and 10% of indigestion.

Louis, who had sexual problems, compensated for his inadequacies in the boudoir by eating like a pig. Fleeing the Tuileries, he insisted on taking along a portable kitchen and giant food hampers. He stopped for three hours to lunch at Etoge; the revolutionaries caught him at Varennes. But for his gross appetite, Louis might have escaped with the Queen and the Dauphin.

The King was called "a walking stomach". On his way to the Temple prison, he seized a crust of bread from a bystander. The condemned monarch ate heartily in the years he awaited execution. His midday meal always included three soups, from two to four entrées, two or three roast dishes, four entremets (sweet courses), three loaves of bread and butter, several compotes, three dishes of fruit, a small carafe of Bordeaux, one of Malvoisie and one of Madeira, a bottle of Champagne and four cups of coffee. His evening meal was similarly immoderate.

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